Finding you: How to slay your dragon
Have you ever felt like it was all leading up to this moment? In the movies and on TV, we oftentimes see the adventures of the characters culminate in some moment as if the characters' entire existence had led and prepared them for that moment.
Then, we may read about a famous figure or leader who is making a difference in the world, and we dismiss their journeys because they are somehow larger than life. They are more than mortal, more than us.
We look at these fictional and factual figures, and we may feel frustrated, and wonder: Why can't I do that?
If we allow those feelings to fester, and we make choice after choice after choice to accept what we can get rather than what we really want, the easier it is to distance ourselves from those figures who have followed their bliss, and more so distance ourselves from the opportunity to follow our own bliss.
So, have you ever had a moment where it seemed as if the most relevant experiences of your life had prepared you for that very moment?
Although the practice and teaching of leadership have been parts of my life for as long as I can remember, beginning with teachers who pointed out leadership qualities to me long before I saw them myself, it was not until a pair of presentations in 2010 that I truly understood courage, leadership, and my place in the world.
Beginning with my earliest experiences as a college freshman, I have been in search of a better way. My fraternity experience was unique, to say the least. After joining Theta Chi Fraternity (Alpha Upsilon/University of Nebraska-Lincoln '01) before my freshman year, the chapter closed for financial reasons at the end of my first semester of membership. Committed to continuing my fraternity experience, I became a member of a second fraternity, where I also held a couple of leadership positions.
During my junior year, I challenged the chapter's culture of hazing, and as a result, I was forced to move out in the middle of the night. Three Theta Chi men showed up to move me out and willingly extended a Helping Hand, demonstrating the power of fraternal values in action. (You can find my story here.)
I left the experience consumed by the idea that there must be a better way, a way to create and deliver a challenging, but meaningful and positive experience to people, providing them with the capacities, knowledge, and skills to be authentic, empowered, and values-driven in their personal and professional lives.
In graduate school, I conducted and published an original research study on perceptions of hazing, and received national recognition for my work, which led to my role as President of the Board of Directors for the non-profit organization HazingPrevention.Org. As a result of my role with the organization, I was asked to create and deliver two presentations at the Theta Chi 2010 National Convention and School of Fraternity Practices, the first of which was "Beyond Hazing" and the second of which was "Building Heroes."
The first presentation was good, but "Building Heroes" rocked me. One of the few things I remember about the presentation was that I felt a jolt as I compared the fraternity's mission with the critical skills for becoming a hero. I stopped midway through the presentation, and asked if the people in the room had felt that jolt. The answer was a resounding "yes."
At the time I walked out at the end of the presentation, I had no idea what to do. The only thing I understood in that moment was that I had to do "something," so I began blogging and tweeting as @BuildingHeroes (now @_PowerOn).
After a couple of months, a person reached out to me via Twitter and asked if I had seen "Finding Joe," which has empowered and sustained me ever since in my own journey, as well as informing my own heroes work.
I have zero business experience, and it has been daunting, even overwhelming, to think about starting my own business.
Joseph Campbell believed that each of us has to defeat our own dragons in order to become the people we have the power to be. For many of us, those dragons are the messages we receive from the culture, the media, and the people around us about what we should or should not do in our lives. When we slay those dragons, we grow ourselves and increase our personal power.
When I think about following my bliss, I think about empowering others to challenge the way things are, to confront their fears, and to create positive change in the world around them.
But for me, the doubts and fears that I have about taking this idea that I have and sharing it with the world are formidable, and my own insecurities make my dragons all the more intimidating.
I look around and see people who are more business savvy, who are more creative, who are more inspiring, who are smarter, and many who are more heroic than me.
I have a copy of "Finding Joe" on my iPhone, and in those darker moments, I will put in my earbuds and turn on the film, even if I am only listening to the words and not watching the screen. I am reminded that this is my bliss and this is my journey, not somebody else's.
The challenges, the lessons, and the opportunities I have had have led me to and prepared me for this moment.
This is not to say that I am better than anybody else, but rather that I have my own contribution to make to the movement, and it is absolutely worthwhile to continue on that journey.